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Parashat Va'era 5762

Who are the Khartumim of Egypt?

khartumei (Exod. 7:11) ('magicians'?) R' A. ibn Ezra writes "It is a four letter word [the root is: Chaf, Resh, Tet, Mem], possibly Egyptian or possibly Chaldean." Ibn Ezra is suggesting that in view of its four-letter root it probably has a non-Hebrew origin. The reason that he suggests these two languages is that throughout the Bible the word occurs only here in an Egyptian context and in Daniel (1:20; 2:2; 27; 4:4; 6; 5:11) in a Babylonian context.

There is a place in Africa called Khartoum, which is today the capital of Sudan. Many years ago I read a suggestion (unfortunately I cannot find the reference) that as the peoples of Africa are involved in magical practices, it is possible that the Khartumim of Egypt are people who knew the magic of Khartoum. They may even have studied under the master magicians there. Once the word was in the Torah it came to mean magicians in general, and hence could also be used in Daniel. This may serve as a solution to R' A. ibn Ezra's doubt.

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Verbs and Adjectives

kaveid (Exod. 7:14) ('is heavy'/'became heavy') Various editions of Targum Onkelos translate this word differently. The Onkelos in 'Ha'ameik Davar' of R' Naftali Tzevi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv) has yekir ('is heavy'), while in 'Torat Chaim' (Mosad HaRav Kook, Targum Onkelos ed. R' Y. Kapah) has ityakar ('became heavy'). It would seem that Rashi was aware of these two versions in Targum Onkelos for he writes "Its correct translation is yekir and not ityakar, it is a name of something (a name of a quality, making it an adjective) like 'the matter is too heavy for you' (ibid 18:18)." Rashbam explains at length (here and Exod. 1:7) that words of the form zakein, shamein, shafeil, are verbs. R' A. ibn Ezra also maintains that they are verbs - past tense. It appears that the two opinions of the commentators are parallel to the two versions of Onkelos. It is fairly clear that the form pa'eil (Kamatz Tzeirei) as a verb may be either past or present. However the distinction between a present tense intransitive (omeid) verb and an adjective is very fine, if it really exists.

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When do singular nouns mean a large number of items?

hatzefardeia (Exod. 8:2) ('the frog/s') Here too various editions of Targum Onkelos translate this word differently. The Onkelos in 'Ha'ameik Davar' of the Netziv has uslikat ('it [the frog] came up') singular, while in 'Torat Chaim' (Mosad HaRav Kook, Targum Onkelos ed. R' Y. Kapah) has usliku ('they [the frogs] came up') plural. Rashi comments "according to the plain meaning one can say that a swarm of frogs is referred to as singular and so too vatehi hakinam ('and there was lice')." According to Rashi this is a rule in Hebrew and he mentions it elsewhere: "Shor vachamor (Gen. 32:6) ('ox and donkey') people often call many oxen 'ox;' a man may say 'at night the rooster called' and would not say 'the roosters called.' " So too Rashi comments " 'For in their anger they killed a man' (Gen. 49:6) these are Chamor and the men of Shechem, 'and you will smite Midian as one man' (Jud. 6:15); and so too 'horse and rider He cast into the sea' (Exod. 15:1). The plain meaning (of all these) is that many men are referred to as one." However in the opinion of R' O. Sforno'horse and rider He cast into the sea' refers to the horse of Pharaoh and its rider as we find 'He shook Pharaoh and his army in the sea of reeds.' In the opinion of R' O. Sforno, He cast one horse and its one rider in the sea.

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vehachbeid (Exod. 8:11) ('and making? heavy') Rashi comments "This is an infinitive like 'walking and traveling' (Gen. 12:9), 'and smiting Moav,' (Kings 2 3:24), 'and inquiring for him' (Sam. 1 22:13), 'smiting and wounding' (Kings 1 20:37). Though all Rashi's examples are infinitives, they vary in form because some are in the Kal conjugation and others, like vehachbeid itself, are in the Hiph'il. R' A. ibn Ezra has the same opinion adding "in place of a past tense verb." The infinitive is without tense, and the time to which it refers is determined by the context. Similarly the infinitive shamoa at the beginning of the second paragraph of the Shema is infinitive , the following verb tishme'u determines the tense.

I will be pleased to have comments on these notes on the Parasha.
Good Shabbos, Meshullam Klarberg, 35/4 Meshech Chochma, Kiryat Sefer, Israel 71919
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